The higher customers’ expectations, the harder it is to satisfy them. But it’s hardest to satisfy customers that don’t want to engage with you at all. In that case, embrace the challenge, get the components in place, and then orchestrate delivery with the passion your customers deserve.

Embrace the challenge

Carter Barnhart embraces and explained the challenge. She is the 27-year-old first-ever Chief Experience Officer at Newport Academy or any behavioral healthcare company like Newport, treating adolescent and young adult mental health, eating disorders and substance abuse.

“We currently are experiencing a mental health crisis among teens and young adults: from 2009 to 2017, serious psychological distress jumped 71 percent among 18- to 25-year-olds.”

“This generation is more educated and more fickle than ever about customer service. People talk about retailers struggling to improve in-store experiences, particularly for millennials. Now imagine how important it is for behavioral health companies to improve inpatient experiences for Gen Z customers, as well as the experience of their families in crisis that are struggling to help.”

She knows this first hand, having been associated with Newport Academy for ten years, first as a patient and then as a member of staff. “That’s why this is so important for Newport Academy and for me.”

Get the components in place

Carter’s most compelling insight is that customer experience in this case cannot be, “Just about the person entering treatment – it’s about their entire support system, including family members, referring professionals, and other members of their personal community. Every individual who is a “stakeholder” in the patient’s well-being needs to have an extraordinary experience, no matter how often or at what level they interact with the company.”

Paying attention to everyone’s experience starts with preparation. “The facility has to look beautiful.” And they choose to have “great food, plated at every meal.” They don’t want to come across as an institution. They want everything about their physical plant and hospitality to drive the point that “Treatment is a gift, not a punishment.”

Orchestrate delivery

This carries through to their attitude towards the first referring phone call, follow up conversations, that all-important first day, patients’ stays, and beyond. They know they are dealing with families on the “worst day of their lives” and do everything they can to support and care for these people to get them through it.

(This is the same attitude Charley Shimanski had when leading the Red Cross Disaster Response. They strove to be “The best part of someone’s worst day.”)

When trust has been broken, recovery requires learning to trust yourself and others again. Newport approaches that in the most productive way for each individual. Some start with clinical therapists. Others start with Yoga or mixed martial arts instruction so they can learn to control things they can control. Still others start with “equine-assisted psycho-therapy” with Levi & Friends. One of the early lessons there is the impossibility of lifting up a horse’s hoof without building a relationship with the horse. The analogy should be clear.

As Carter put it, the “Kids come in broken – with no motivation.” Everyone they touch has to be focused on giving them a welcoming, seeing, hearing, validating, and ultimately empowering experience. Carter says, “We’re going to love you until you can love yourself.”

Implications for you

If customer experience is your overarching strategic priority, get everyone aligned around the link between experience and your mission, vision and values – purpose. You can’t deliver extraordinary experience until everyone involved understands why it matters and embraces the challenge.

The next step is assembling the components. One of those is a chief customer experience officer. This has to start with the CEO. Chief Experience Officers like Carter give the CEO leverage, much as the best Chief Human Resource, Operating, Strategy, Financial Officers and the like do for their areas of expertise.

Finally, systematize, operationalize and embed it, orchestrating delivery to make sure every detail of every interaction with customers, guests, clients or patients and all those that impact those people is extraordinary.